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Monday, July 18, 2016

A new centre left party should not be the focus of Liberal Democrats activity

Those of us who have been around a long time may well have had an uneasy sense of deja vu when Tim Farron told the media at the weekend that he has been in talks with Labour and Greens about forming a left of centre alliance.

The Independent says that Farron believes the calamitous environment of British politics presents an “historic opportunity” to build a new political party or alliance on the centre-left, involving both the Labour Party and his own MPs. Asked whether he was open to creating a new political party in Britain, the Lib Dem leader said: “I think we write nothing off.”

It is my hope that this is just a case of avoiding scaring away possible detectors because, Tim is right when he says that his job is to "defend the Liberal heritage of our movement". The rest of his analysis though is only good in parts:

“The whole current scenario reminds us that the Labour and Tory parties in particular are completely and utterly false and uncomfortable coalitions. You’ve got the far left and the soft left of the Labour party… and in the Tory party you’ve got English nationalists versus pragmatists and even some liberals within the Tory party. In any other democracy in Europe those people wouldn’t be in the same party as one another – and quite a few would be in the same party as us.

“My sense is that one of the many outcomes of the referendum is the fact that progressives have rather enjoyed one another’s company on the campaign trail… there are loads of people out there who you realise in this most calamitous and febrile set of circumstances you share a lot more in common with them than the fact you want to be in the European Union. So realignment is a real, real possibility”.

But, he added, it is too early to tell if the election would be contested with such an alliance. “A form of any kind of movement does depend upon what happens in the Labour party,” Mr Farron said. “The main situation will be how members of the Labour party relate to Liberal Democrats. We have to respect what’s going on in the Labour party at the moment and see what happens. My genuine sense is that I can’t see a happy ending for them.”

There are senior members of the Liberal Democrats who are obsessed with realigning the left in British politics with little regard to the Liberal heritage that our party represents. It seems that their voice in being heard very loudly in the Leader's office. He would do better to talk to grassroots members.

The last attempt to realign British politics in the 1980s foundered on the British electoral system and overlarge egos. Both factors continue to stand in our way, albeit the personalities are different. If we are to have a realignment we cannot be distracted by yet more new parties, it must be a loose coalition focussing on securing electoral reform.

That is the best way to guarantee its longevity and to enable the loose coalitions within the Tory and Labour Parties, which Tim correctly identifies, to find their philosophical homes.
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